Mental health and wellness at York: A community consultation

students in vari hall

York University wants to hear your thoughts about mental health and wellness on campus. This September, the Mental Health Steering Committee will begin hosting consultation sessions for students, staff and faculty, inviting them to voice their views and opinions around mental health at York U. The initiative is being launched in an effort to improve awareness around mental health, to gather feedback from key campus community groups and to further develop the University’s mental health strategy.

Executive sponsors Rhonda Lenton, vice-president academic and provost, Gary Brewer, vice-president finance and administration, and Janet Morrison, vice-provost students, are among the key players supporting this initiative.

“By prioritizing the development of a healthy campus, our aim is to create and maintain conditions that allow our students, faculty and staff to thrive,” says Morrison. “Promoting a healthy campus means taking ownership of the fact that everything we do, from the services we offer to the processes we follow and the environment we construct, has an impact on the ability of our community members to flourish.”

Given the size of York’s community, the steering committee has adapted a Mental Health Strategy Framework to guide and support the development and implementation of effective strategies.

Mental Health Framework chartBeyond focusing on crisis management and mental health services, the committee aims to develop goals and targets toward the following:

  • increasing mental health awareness;
  • improving community members’ capacity to respond to early indicators of mental health concerns;
  • providing tools to support the development of self-management competencies and coping skills; and
  • developing and implementing institutional policies and structures that support positive mental health and work toward making our campus more inclusive and supportive.

The importance of taking action

There are many reasons why we need to take action. Stress, anxiety, depression and other issues are common struggles, and their effects reach beyond campus to both a national and worldwide level.

The stigma around mental health and its discussion often creates barriers for those who could benefit from seeking help. Admitting feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or suicidal can be the hardest first step.

An infographic charting mental health supports and statistics at York University
“It’s a really important initiative that the University has started because of the prevalence of mental health conditions and the stigma attached,” says Louise Hartley, director, York University Psychology Clinic. “When you’re not sure about a physical health condition, you go into the doctor and explain your symptoms and receive care. That’s not the case with mental health. People are reluctant to seek mental health services. One of the impediments can be the cost of those services. York has an incredible program for its staff and faculty that enables therapy to take place. Students are also well served through Personal Counselling Services, so the entire community has resources right on campus.”

The Mental Health & Wellness at York website connects community members to resources specific to their experience as either a student, staff or faculty member. Training programs are also in place for those who want to learn how to provide support to people struggling with mental health concerns.

Measuring progress

“I think we’re doing a good job at York,” says Hartley. “We’re really trying to find ways of engaging the students, but it is an ongoing challenge. We need campus champions to keep this movement going, especially as our champions graduate and move on with their careers. I am hopeful this initiative can support that.”

The Mental Health Steering Committee will re-evaluate progress every three years to ensure a progressive movement toward creating and maintaining a mentally healthy campus that empowers York University members to thrive.

“It’s vital that our community members are engaged and feel heard,” says Leah State, project lead, Student Mental Health Strategy. “We hope that this process will increase awareness of the work that’s already been done, develop new opportunities for collaboration and highlight mental health resources available to our community.”

Let’s talk about it

graphic showing the hashtag YUmentalhealthEveryone in the York community has a responsibility to ensure York is a healthy place to live, learn and work.

If you’re a student, staff or faculty member, the committee encourages you to attend one of the consultation sessions to share your priorities and ideas for how to help champion campus mental health initiatives. Can’t attend in person? You can provide feedback online.

Contact to learn more about the consultation process this Fall, and to schedule a focus group with your team.